How to ace the job interview introduction
The first impression counts. You’ll make an impression already within the first minutes - whether you want it or not. That’s just how it is. Nobody is immune against unconscious bias. Even if there is a tendency to raise awareness about unconscious bias in HR and with hiring managers, especially in big corporations, and there are interview techniques aiming to reduce unconscious bias in the hiring process, it’s something you should be at least aware of.
The job interview introduction is your chance to make a great first impression. Usually you’ll be asked to introduce yourself after the recruiter and hiring manager present themselves. There are different ways to go about the job interview introduction and not all are equally good.
Yes, you want to present yourself, but you don’t need to repeat every single point on your resume. The employer usually reads your resume beforehand and has a general idea about your experience. I experienced it several times that candidates started with a monologue which covered everything from the place they were born over primary and secondary school to all of their work experiences. If I hadn’t interrupted them and asked questions which led to the points which interested me, they would probably have gone on for hours.
You probably already have a feeling that this isn’t the best way of introducing yourself. So keep that in mind and if you tend to deliver a monologue, focus on what’s interesting about you with regards to the position you’re applying for and leave out all irrelevant information. If the employer is really interested in an aspect that you didn’t cover, they’ll ask you about it for sure.
The elevator pitch
In case you haven’t heard about the elevator pitch before, it’s a mini sales pitch. You introduce yourself or an idea to someone in the time it takes to ride an elevator - 30 seconds to two minutes, hence the name. Often it’s the opening line to engage in conversation with a new business contact. You can kick off the job interview with your elevator pitch but it won’t do for a comprehensive introduction of yourself and your achievements. It’s a little too short for that purpose.
If the elevator pitch is your thing, rather than just introducing yourself using this technique, think about introducing each of the important milestones on your resume in the style of an elevator pitch. It has the great advantage that you’re delivering all relevant information in a concise format and have a lot more time to discuss about concrete experiences and ask the employer all questions you want answered.
No matter what your style is, the most important thing is to be authentic. I know that this might sound weird to many of you because we are being taught to “fit in” from such a young age. I got feedback from many women around me that they have a strong aversion against putting up an act, behaving in a certain way in order to be accepted, but they thought it was something that they were supposed to do. The good news is: you don’t need to do it. In fact, it’s a really bad idea: So many people have done this over so many years that employers are realizing more and more that they need people to be their authentic selves to be truly successful. All the energy which you’d usually put into pretending that you’re a certain way is freed up and will allow you to do a better job.
Recruiters are usually well trained to pick up on whether you’re making something up or if you’re being authentic. So don’t pretend, don’t try to play a role. You won’t be able to keep it up over a long time frame once you get the job - or at least it’ll most likely not make you happy to keep pretending. All recruiters which I interviewed at a recent trade show confirmed that they really look for authentic candidates. The times of fitting a square into a round hole are over.
How to be authentic?
You’re still in a professional environment, so your favorite jogging pants are out of question, as well as a too informal attitude until you have a feeling for the etiquette in this company. The key is to understand that we don’t have only “one” authentic self. You’ll behave slightly differently with your family, your partner, your friends than with strangers or new acquaintances. That’s not inauthentic in any way; it’s just a natural part of how we are. We never talk or behave the same in every situation of our lives. Authenticity and adaptability are not opposites.
I mean by being authentic that you shouldn’t lie or pretend you like things which you don’t. You shouldn’t act in a way which doesn’t naturally come to you. Don’t base your answers and actions on what you imagine these strangers want to hear. Your assumptions are very likely to be wrong and besides: Surprising them with answers they weren’t expecting might be the best thing you do in the interview. When introducing yourself, just talk about yourself in a natural way. There is no need to learn a fancy introduction by heart. You know what you’re talking about. You know yourself, you know what you did so far in your life and what is important for the employer to know. Just tell them the most relevant things about you in a conversational way .
Recruiters are used to applicants being nervous, especially in the beginning. If you’re nervous, just keep in mind that you’re not the only one. Most of the candidates I interviewed were a little nervous. It’s just human to be a little nervous in a job interview. So don’t worry too much about being nervous and showing signs of nervosity. That doesn’t mean that you won’t get the job or that you’re making a bad first impression.
If you know that you have a tendency to be nervous and forget what you wanted to say, you should probably rehearse what you’ll say in your introduction. You think I’m contradicting myself? Didn’t I just tell you a little earlier that you don’t need to learn a job interview introduction by heart? Well, I don’t mean that you should stand in front of a mirror and learn your introduction by heart. Just try a few different ways to introduce yourself to see which words come to you easily. By phrasing your introduction in different ways, you’ll have an easier time to find the right words later on. Don't worry if you can't remember exactly how you wanted to phrase it - nobody except you knows what you wanted to say anyway.
If you tend to be extremely nervous, you can also bring a little notebook with the most important bullet points you want to cover in your job interview introduction. You can open the notebook at the beginning of the interview and have it lying in front of you opened on the correct page. Then you won’t have to search for the right page while talking.
These are just a few ways how to approach an authentic job interview introduction. No reason to freak out if your introduction isn’t perfect. Yes, the first impression is important but you still have the entire interview to present yourself in a good way.